Photo courtesy @tacticalfishing crew (Instagram)

I was worrying about this trip all last week.  Would the incoming weather front cancel the trip?  Would we go, but have terrible conditions?  Last year’s trip was so great, we decided to make it an annual event.  In the midst of the El Nino season that wouldn’t end, we sold out this trip in 8 days with people wait listing to get on.  If I had to cancel, what would be the implications with our sponsors – Shimano and

Morning of the trip, I was in contact with the landing, half expecting to have to tell everyone the trip was cancelled.  In the end, we made it off the dock with a full boat of 30 anglers.  The regular crew of Capt. Steve Virtue, 2nd capt. Dan, Bryan and Sean on deck, and Laura in the galley were onhand to take care of us.  We had both live and frozen squid on tap for bait.  In his trip briefing, Steve said that it would be pretty windy to start the day, but that it should die down as the day progressed.  The wind was supposed to be coming from the southeast.  To try and hide from it, we’d be on the north side of the island…the better fishing side!  With my nerves calmed, I rigged up and hit my bunk.

I remembered to bring my 10 cans of food for CISCOS’ Holiday Food Drive, but left my phone in the car 🙁  Consequently, I didn’t have music to block out noise and a clock to check the time.  I got up the next morning and it was only 4am and still dark.  Oh well, I was up.  I had some coffee and awaited the day.  As the sun came up, ominous looking clouds were on the horizon.  Uh oh.  The sun was still low on the horizon when we started our first drift on the north end of the channel between Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands.

It was pretty windy, creating a hefty chop in the water and pushing us along quickly.  Steve later told me we were drifting at over 1.5 knots.  The current wasn’t helping either.  I started the day with my bait rig and fished 16 oz. of lead.  Despite the heavy weight and casting against the drift at the stern, my line would be angled in the opposite direction by the time it hit bottom.  Still the fishing was decent with a legal ling getting sacked by Daniel Medrano, but mostly smaller Johnny and blue bass.

As the day progressed though, the conditions got better.  Steve also compensated for the fast drift by keeping the boat in gear to keep us on the spots longer.  That’s when the trip turned and started to get really good.

First there was a little run of bonito.  Once you got past them though and got to the bottom, the rockfish that came up were quality models.  The smaller Johnnies and blues were replaced with big reds and chucks.  It was fun, but by midday there were more bonito on the boat than lings.  Not to worry…Steve said we hadn’t even hit the ling spot yet.  Oh really?  OK!

We kept at it and slowly the lings overtook the bones on the board.  Once we got to the rockfish limit though, it was time to play.  We made a move to Steve’s secret ling spot.  Right away it was good.  Jimmy Bass, who was already enjoying a great day kicked things off scoring a ling on the brown/red Candy Bar swimbait.  It got busy on deck and Laura had to come out of the galley to gaff it.  As we were celebrating Jimmy’s score and Laura’s subsequent gaff, I got bit.  OH nicer model!  It actually took out drag.  I was fighting it when I heard a big THUNK on the deck behind me…

“Joe look!”

“I’m fighting a fish!”

“Joe, you gotta look!”

I turned to see deckhand Sean with Kyle Spaulding’s ling on a gaff with half a nerf ball sized chuckie choked down it’s throat!  OMG!  I went back to fighting my fish and minutes later Sean gaffed it…a 31″ lingasaur!  That run of 3 nicer lings kicked off a steady plunk that lasted until we had to stop with boat limits of ling cod.

Jimmy and Kyle’s fish ended up battling it out for jackpot at the end of the day with Kyle’s big ling slightly heavier to eke out the win.  Both fish were 16+ lbs.!  It turned to be a really nice day on the water.  It started to sprinkle before we got back to the landing, but it didn’t matter because everyone was taking home limits of quality rockfish and lingcod.

As always, thanks to the crew of the Pacific Islander for taking care of us.  Thanks again to our sponsors Shimano, and Channel Islands Sportfishing for providing our giveaways and supporting the effort.  Most of all, thanks to all the Salties who came out.  I enjoyed fishing with many friends and making new ones.  See you at the rail soon.  Tight lines!

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